I was introduced to Dawn Shipley first time by Little Rachel at Green Bay Rockin’ Fest II at 2005. I remember her red hair and her laid back attitude. It seems to be a Texan thing, as I have liked all the female artists that come from there. Even when they are very feminine they seem to be more stronger and self-confident than female singers from other states and countries. They don’t try to imitate anyone or be something they are not, they just go out there and do what they want! And don’t get me wrong, beside being musician and singer Dawn is also absolute sweetheart. It is high time to catch up with Dawn and introduce her and her music to you too!
1) As kid you sang at the choir and played piano. What instruments can you play?
I started playing piano when I was 5. My grandmother teach me, and I learned a lot on my own with some old lesson books that had been my mom’s. I also played the French horn in high school, and now I play rhythm guitar as well.
2) Where are you originally from. What made you move to Los Angeles?
I am from San Antonio, Texas! But I did live in Austin my last 7 years before moving to Los Angeles. I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated college for a software engineering job. I did choose to move to LA because there was a good music scene. That was a must for me!
3) Is there something you miss from Texas?
Some things I miss the most are (in no particular order) bbq, tex-mex food, my family and friends, wearing my vintage cowboy boots, ice cold beers on a sweltering hot day, and the great honky-tonk scene, of course!
4) When you moved to LA you started to write songs and found a new band. Your first gig in California was at Crazy Jacks, Burbank California and opening for the Paladins. How was it to be a female singe that time?
Luckily opening for the Paladins at Crazy Jacks was not my first time on stage! Even so, it was quite nerve-racking, but very exciting at the same time! I just remember it was a great night with a good, supportive crowd and lots of dancing, and we ran out of songs before our time was up!
My first time singing publicly (other than church choir) was acoustic in Austin at a party with some great musicians. I sang “Walkin After Midnight” with Kevin Smith (High Noon, etc) on bass, Olivier Giraud (8 ˝ Souvenirs) on guitar, and I there was Shaun Young (High Noon, etc) at the drums. That was a blast! And then a few days later Dale Watson offered to let me sit in with him, which was my first time on stage! Many other great artists in Austin gave me the opportunity to sing with them, too, like Roger Wallace, Marti Brom, Teri Joyce, and Earl Poole Ball. I was a very lucky!
5) It seems to me that music scene in Austin and Los Angeles are different. Do you think your music has changed during the years? Has your music got different vibes from LA, beside your Texan roots?
The Austin and Los Angeles music scenes are very different! The biggest difference for me moving to Los Angeles was the separation of the scenes. In Austin, all of my friends and I enjoyed many styles of roots music and I often saw the same people at all the shows, whereas in Los Angeles, there is a honky-tonk scene, but it is completely separate from the rockabilly scene, and you don’t see many people in both scenes.
My music has definitely changed over time, too. I started writing both honky-tonk and rockabilly (probably could be considered more the hillbilly side of rockabilly). These days most of our sets are rockabilly only, though we will still throw in some honky-tonk numbers. And over time, we have expanded our horizons some, too, adding more rock and roll and some gypsy jazz influence as well. I don’t know if that is so much from the differences between Austin and Los Angeles, as much as it is just a part of growing musically.
6) You have always had own band, many female artist travel alone and play with the local bands. Have you also done that or have you always had Sharp Shooters with you?
So far I haven’t had the opportunity to tour THAT much, though I hope to tour more! I usually have the Sharp Shooters with me. I did tour Europe almost 10 years ago with my ex-husband’s band, Truly Lover Trio. It is very nice having my own band with me, but I also would enjoy getting the opportunity to be backed by other great musicians!
7) You have also done backing up vocals for Kim Lenz, Truly Lover Trio and Miguel Garcia and the Vaquetones at their recordings. What is important while doing backing up vocals?
I feel it is very different doing backing vocals than lead vocals. It is crucial that your singing match with the lead vocals, and not just the voices, but intonations, phrasing, and dynamics as well. I find it’s more difficult singing backing vocals because of those points, and also having the pressure of giving the lead singer what he or she is looking for. With my own recordings, I choose if I’m happy with my vocals in most cases, but with backing vocals, that is someone else decision, which adds more pressure. I tend to spend a lot of time listening to the song details and preparing to try to get every detail correct.
8) You were awarded year 2006 Americana Female Singer/Songwriter of the Year and Americana of the Year by the Los Angeles Music Awards. Has this recognition brought you more visibility, gigs or record sales?
Lol, not really. It is a nice thing to be able to have on my musical resume, but I don’t particularly feel it has aided us much.
9) If I would be a promoter and wanted to book you to play in Europe, what should I do?
A facebook message or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org will get the ball rolling!
10) You are also software developer and now there is new thing in your life. Tell us little about Blue Dawn aromatherapy, how did you got interested in making natural bath and body products? How do you take care of yourself and your voice at tours or gigs?
I have dreamed for a few years of being my own boss and making my own bath and body products. It was just a dream until I started learning about essential oils and all the benefits, which led me to become a certified and nationally registered aromatherapist. Not only do I have my line of products, but I also do clinical aromatherapy consultations and make custom blends for clients. It is a very rewarding profession!
As for taking care of my voice on tours and at gigs, water and sleep are definitely key for me! Sometimes sipping a little brandy or whiskey when my throat feels a little gravely helps!
11) There is one track “Little Too Late” that is downloadable at CD Baby (2013) and it is also included at your latest record “Shoulda Known Better” (2015). Why did you choose this song?Tell us also bit about Shot O’Clock Records.
There is nothing that special about “Little Too Late” (except that our guitarist Watts has to tune down his guitar!). The downloadable version is different than the album version, though. We had recorded it for the Viva Las Vegas sampler disc, and Jordi Hereu is playing bass and Jeff Gerow is playing drums. We recorded the album version during our sessions for the Shoulda Known Better cd with Eddie and Moy on drums and bass, and some of the lyrics have been rewritten.
12) Who plays at latest record and Sharp Shooter now? And do they play at other bands too?
The members of the band are:
• Jose “Watts” Rodriguez on take-off guitar. He also plays with the Vargas Brothers, the Rip ‘Em Ups, and the Rhythm Reactorz
• Moy “Sexy” slappin’ the doghouse bass. He also plays with Los Rhythm Rockets and Cynthia Luce & the Eastside Six
• Eddie Martinez on the skins. He also plays with the Rhythm Reactorz.
13) Lets talk about your latest record “Shoulda Known Better” it is called mix of authentic 50’s Rock’n’Roll, rockabilly, bit of hillbilly, western swing, guitar picking, boogie and even hint of gypsy jazz. There are jivers, strollers and rockers. There is 10 originals and one cover (jimmy Pritchett's That's the Way I Feel). Do you write your own songs or does the band help you with it?
For the previous albums, I have done all the lyric/melody writing and most of the arranging, though the band definitely helped some. For “Shoulda Known Better” it’s been a bit different. My guitarist Watts has been my writing partner on many of the originals. I still write all the lyrics and melodies, then Watts helps with chord progressions and the arrangements (and sometimes changing the melodies). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classy touches Watts adds to what I come up with!
14) The newest album was recorded by Shorty Poole (Dave and Deke Combo) with Kevin Stewart at bass (Big Sandy) and Carl Sonny Leyland (playing what piano)?
Now this gets a little tricky. Shorty did record and produce the album. The main line-up (Watts, Moy and Eddie) played on most of the tracks, though we had some special guests as well:
• Rene Cervantes (Sydewinders) on rhythm guitar
• Shorty on bass on “All I Can Do,” “Your Only Gal,” and “Forever Or Goodbye”
• Carl “Sonny” Leyland on piano on “Voodoo You” and “That’s The Way I Feel”
• Kevin Stewart on bass on “Voodoo You”
• Robert Frank (who was in Coffin Draggers with Watts) on drums on “Voodoo You.” Robert also recorded “Voodoo You”. It is the only song done in a different session than the rest.
• Carol DeLeon on backing vocals on “Voodoo You.” Carol is an amazing singer and vocal coach!
My favorite is song called "Voodo you". It has bit different vibe in it, could you tell us about that?
When we started writing “Voodoo You”, I had no idea it would turn out like it did. Watts told me we needed a song about voodoo, so I wrote the lyrics. This one I have to say is really his masterpiece, as he gave it its wonderful gypsy jazz flavor, depth and elegance. I wrote the lyrics, but changed my melody to go with what he came up with. It is a style that we would like to do more of in the future. We already have a new number called “Go Ahead And Go” that we are working on in the same sort of style!
15) You have been performing many big venues and this year you had gig in Mexico City Rockalavera. What kind of experience what that?
Rockalavera was an amazing experience! It was a frantic crazy rocking good time. The place was packed from wall to wall with eager people who received us very well. They went crazy when I started throwing out copies of our cd, and I think I only poked one person’s eye out! We ended up playing a 2nd time at the post-party at a diner the next day to a packed, sweaty dance floor!
16) What is happening with Dawn Shipley & The Sharp Shooter in the future? Any new plans or gigs in Europe?
We are continuing to work on new material, play local gigs, and are always looking to play gigs for our foreign friends!
• Shoulda Known Better, Shot O’Clock Records (2015)
• Mad About You/Sugar Mama Limited Edition Red Vinyl 45RPM, Shot O’Clock Records (2012)
• Baby If I, El Toro Records (2006)
• Step It Up, Shot o’Clock Records (2003)
You can also find Dawn at several compilations:
• Viva Las Vegas #16
• LA Americana Nightlife
• Razor Point Records - The Howlin' Sessions Volume 1
• 30!!! Years Bear Family Records
• Viva Las Vegas #7
• Shake The Shack Rockabilly Ball Volume 1